While the heavy Southern California rains helped with drought conditions and filled local reservoirs, new weed and grass growth presents a future fire hazard.
The Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District is urging residents to tackle vegetation abatement and defensible space for fire safety.
According to Fire Chief Fred Cox, the current fuel levels are above what they usually are for this time of year. However, this moisture will dry out once the rains come to an official end.
“These dry grasses can spread a wildfire quickly into dense native vegetation, our eucalyptus forests and ornamental landscapes which is a huge concern to us,” Cox said. “The Fire District has made it a point to meet with every HOA in the fire district, including the Rancho Santa Fe Association, to discuss expectations and concerns pertaining to vegetation management. These meetings are an opportunity to build rapport with the numerous HOAs and to educate them on the importance of defensible space and the maintenance of common HOA areas.”
Cox said the fire district is readying to send its “annual weed abatement mailer” to district residents highlighting the requirements of defensible space as well as how to safeguard your home.
“The Fire Prevention Bureau will also be driving throughout the district and looking at all properties for potential hazards,” Cox said. “If hazards are present, homeowners will be notified by mail of the potential hazard and how to abate it. Staff is also willing to meet with individual property owners to discuss hazards, weed abatement, building construction features, and any other general fire concerns homeowners have regarding their property or a neighboring property.”
Cox wants residents to know that in San Diego County, fire season is year-round. And with that, so is property maintenance. This upkeep includes 100 feet of defensible space around structures and 20 feet of clearance along roadways and driveways.
“They (homeowners) are also responsible for making sure there is an acceptable vertical clearance of 13 feet 6 inches in height along all roadways and driveways. This is the required height for our emergency vehicles to safely occupy the road,” Cox said. “Dry, dead palm fronds should also be removed from palm trees as the accumulation around their trunks presents a severe fire hazard.”
Cox went on to say that annual weeds and grasses need clearance. This needs to be done when they are mature and must be abated no later than May 1, 2019.
Property owners who are in noncompliance will be notified by the district by mail to abate the hazards noted. Under the district guidelines, they will mail up to three notices offering the homeowner 35 days to comply with the abatement terms.
“If the hazard has not been abated after this timeframe, the property will be subject to the fire district’s Forced Abatement Process. If forced abated, the district will hire a third-party contractor to do the required work and will bill the property owner,” he said. “If payment is not received, the district will then put a lien on the property. Property owners or managers are strongly urged to arrange for the clearing of their own properties, as the above requirements are strictly enforced.”
Cox said the cost of a force abatement is higher than if a homeowner were to do it themselves or hire a commercial company to do it.
Cox encourages homeowners to schedule a site inspection with its Fire Prevention Specialists who can point out recommendations to reduce fire risks and hazards.
To reach the district regarding a homeowner’s property or that of a neighboring property of concern in the district, email the Fire Prevention Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (858) 756-5971.